HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012? by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
Today is the last Sunday of 2012 and in two days we will enter into 2013. How you begin 2013 will depend on how you end 2012. With that in mind I want to preach a message titled, “HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012?”
John 13:33-38 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.
Overall Background: The passage we just read took place in the final hours before Jesus was betrayed. He was sitting in the upper room with His disciples. They had just finished the Passover meal. Jesus had just informed the disciples that one of them would betray Him. You can just imagine the atmosphere of the room. As they say – “you could cut the air with a knife.” It was tense; it was sad; it was confusing. Occasionally, you could hear “Lord is it I?” – “Am I the one who will betray you?”
After the real betrayer—Judas Iscariot—walks out of the room, Jesus says to His disciples in verse 33 “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come….’”
That’s a loaded statement. In other words – “I have to walk down the road where you cannot follow me.” “I have some work to do but you cannot help me.”
For e.g. Growing up like any little boy, I wanted to help dad. Most of the time he would let me help him and even teach me how to do it. But sometimes, if the work was dangerous—electrical work, heavy work—he would tell me to step back. I remember distinctly – we were clearing out an old shed and from the looks of it, it was the perfect hideout for snakes. I remember my dad telling me – “Don’t come back here. I am going to go in.”
Jesus was telling His disciples – “You have followed me this far and that is great but now I need you to step back.” Why did He need them to step back? You and I who are living on this side of the cross, we know the path that Jesus was about to take. He was about to go to the cross. He was about to do what was purposed since the beginning of time – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was about to do what all the prophets had prophesied in the Bible. He was about to do what He left His throne in heaven to do. Jesus was about to go to the cross and give His life as a sacrifice for our sins. No one could follow Him there.
Application: Let me say this as clearly as possible. You and I cannot go down that path. We cannot die for our sins. We cannot earn our own salvation. We can do all the nice things in the world—help people, feed the hungry, visit the sick, volunteer at the homeless shelter—but it will not take us down the path of salvation. Not only that but no one but Jesus can walk that path for you. I cannot walk that path for you. You cannot walk that path for me. Your parents cannot walk that path for you. The church cannot walk that path for you. No great personality–past, present, or future–can walk the path for you. All you can do is step back and see Jesus walking to the cross, being nailed to the cross, and dying on the cross for your sins. All you can do is accept His sacrifice for your sins and thank Him for walking that path for you. Have you done that?
Let’s go back to the story – you can imagine the look of confusion and doubt in the faces of the disciples. What do you mean, “Where I am going, you cannot come?” So Jesus tells them what to do in the meantime. Go to verse 33 again: “so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Jesus knew that in His absence the disciples would turn on each other. They would launch an investigation into who betrayed their Master. They would split into groups and factions and divisions. They would blame each other and tear each other apart. What’s more? They would even blame themselves. In the end, there would be nothing left.
So he says again in verse 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus is saying – “This is the test. People are watching you. Don’t try to come after Me. Don’t try to tear each other apart. Satan wants to tear you apart. Just show the world the love you have for each other.”
By the way, what is the standard of this love? “love one another; as I have loved you,”
What do you do when you feel angry, bitter, jealous, frustrated with someone? Insist on loving them the way I have loved you.
What do you do when you find yourself at the point of speaking hatefully, critically, and angrily to someone? Overcome evil with good. Overcome hatred with love.
What do you do when you cannot stand someone? Do not wait to feel kindly towards that person. Act kindly and do it immediately. Go out of your way to show love.
In other words, show each other the I Corinthians 13 kind of love – 4Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never fails.
Application: May I ask you – What was your standard of love in 2012? Was it “I will love you as long as you do this?” or was it “I will love you as long as you don’t do this? Are you ready to close out 2012? Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Is there someone from whom you need forgiveness?
Let’s go back to the story – instead of obeying Christ’s commandment to love each other, Peter insists on following Jesus. Listen to verse 36 onwards. 36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” In other words, Jesus says, “Don’t follow me.” Peter says, “I will follow you anyways.”
In a moment of passion and emotion, Peter did not stop to think about what he was saying – “I will follow you now.” “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” This was not a mark of great discipleship. This was a mark of the flesh. This kind of thinking did not seek to glorify Christ. It was speaking in the power of self. It was seeking to glorify self.
What was Jesus’ response? Jesus did not commend Peter for this. To the contrary, listen to Jesus’ words to Peter in verse 38 “Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’” In other words, “Peter – you think you will do the best you can to follow Me. Before the night’s over, you will deny me three times.”
It happened exactly the way Jesus said it would happen. Peter not only denied Jesus three times but he also cursed Him in front of everybody – “I do not know the Man!” Right then the rooster crowed and Peter remembered the words of Jesus. Matthew tells us in Matthew 26:75 that “he went out and wept bitterly.”
That is the picture of every believer who tries to do things in the flesh.
Application: Look back at 2012. I can guarantee that every one of your low moments were moments when you tried to do things in your flesh – in your own power. I will do this. I will make it happen. I will do the best I can for the Lord. You fell flat on your face. You did completely opposite of what you started out doing. It brought out the worst in you. You ended up with mud in your face.
Back to the story – Did Jesus disqualify Peter? Did He demote Peter? No. Why? Because Jesus already knew what Peter was going to do.
Application: Your low moments, your weak moments, your failures in 2012 did not surprise Jesus.
The Holy Spirit through Luke gives us some additional information about the conversation between Peter and Jesus. Listen to Luke 22:31-34 31And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Jesus not only knew what Peter was going to do but He gave Satan permission to sift Peter. He allowed him to fall on His face.
Application: God was not only aware of your failures in 2012 but He also allowed them. Like Peter you may weep bitterly and look back at your low moments with regret but God is not looking at you with condemnation.
Jesus allowed Peter to fall on His face to reveal to him the failure of the flesh. Now when Peter returned, he was no longer trusting in self but in Christ. Jesus never gave up on Peter. In fact, He knew what Peter was going to do one day.
Application: So also with us. God takes us down the path of defeat to reveal to us the failure of the flesh and the need to rely on Christ. He builds us up in faith and get’s us to rely on Christ instead of self.
Some of us are looking at 2012 with regrets; some of us are looking at 2012 with shame; some of us are looking at 2013 with hopelessness and despair. God wants us to revise our outlook on the past year. There might be places that we need to seek His forgiveness—sins that need to be confessed; wrongs that need to be made right; attitudes that need to change. Having said that, know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Make a resolution to step into the New Year – not to be a better person or do the best we can but make a decision to rest in Christ – to see that the Old Self has been crucified, buried, and resurrected in Christ; to walk with our eyes set upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; to trust Him more; to seek Him more; to love Him more.
When Jesus returned to the disciples after the resurrection, He asked Peter three times. Do you love Me? That’s exactly what He wants from us today and in 2013.